President Deeks welcomes national guidelines for return to campus in September

Posted 07 August, 2020

Welcoming the Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions, the President of University College Dublin, Professor Andrew Deeks has stressed the critical importance of personal contact for both the teaching and research components of college activity.

“The Student Experience Survey (completed by 5,000 UCD students in June) highlights the importance of face-to-face contact for students, particularly in relation to mental well-being and health, and so I am glad to see that the national guidelines seek to facilitate the adoption of 1m social distancing among students in class or lecture settings.” He said

The Implementation Guidelines set out a range of ‘context-specific measures with practical guidance for HEIs to safely deliver teaching and research activities on-campus in autumn 2020’. They have been drawn up with specialist input from public health experts within the HEI sector and are endorsed by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre in liaison with the Department of Further, Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, and have been endorsed by Minister Simon Harris.

Of particular note, the guidelines permit 1m social distancing between students in lectures, tutorials, practical classes and other teaching activities in conjunction with the use of face coverings by students.

While the University had planned for a number of scenarios, the President said “As the new academic year fast approaches, greater clarity is emerging in terms of guidelines under which we will be managing the teaching, learning and campus experience of our students, and under which we will return a greater degree of campus working.”

Work is continuing on timetabling, and understandably, the guidelines create a considerable range of teaching, learning and assessment modes across the University.  The planning also takes into account the capacity limits associated with indoor events (currently 50 and due to increase to 100 when phase 4 is implemented) which make it more challenging to support in classroom activities.  Current data indicates that most undergraduate students will be in classrooms around 30-70% of the normal schedule, with most graduate students having between 20 and 86% of normal classroom time. These percentages vary between programmes and they may well change over time.

The University has published key dates for the autumn trimester. The President confirmed that classes for continuing students will commence on 21 September.  Orientation for first year undergraduates will run from 22 to 25 September with tuition commencing on 28 September.

The University is planning a phased return of employees to campus from 1 September to ensure sufficient on-campus activity and support for students as they begin the new academic year.  Student-facing services and those who support them will be phased in by 14 September.  International students who are required to self-isolate for fourteen days when they arrive into Ireland, can be accommodated in campus residences before the start of the trimester.

“We are not returning to our ‘old normal’ with all our people on campus most of the time.” Professor Deeks said.  “Working within social distancing guidelines and leveraging technology, we intend to shape a ‘new normal’ in which flexible working practices allow for different working times, patterns, and locations in support of the effective and safe delivery of our work.  We will take into account the need to support students and researchers as well as the individual circumstances of employees. This is a critical phase in UCD’s transition back to working effectively on campus, as we prepare to deliver to our students the best campus experience safely possible in current circumstances.”

By: Eilis O'Brien, UCD University Relations